Mali’s Chamber of Mines has tripled the country’s reserves estimate to 1.63 Bt on the back of recent discoveries. The Falea concession, which is held by Eurasian Resources Group, has 439 Mt, while the associated Bouala and Torolo reserves have another 720 Mt and 252 Mt, respectively.
Output is to be exported via a new railway to the Guinean port of Conakry, which is already the biggest bauxite exporting port on the continent, and also using an ageing railway to the Senegalese port of Dakar, which needs to be rehabilitated.
Chinese state-owned banks have pledged to fund the development of both lines, but binding deals have not yet been signed. An estimated US$8B is required for the 900 km line to Conakry, and another US$1.5B for the renovation of the Dakar line. Both projects have been delayed by low commodity prices, civil war in Mali and, to a lesser extent, by the outbreak of Ebola in 2014. The two railways could also be used to tap undeveloped iron ore and uranium reserves in the country. China Railway Engineering Corporation is expected to build the Bamako-Conakry line, and China Railway Construction Corporation the Bamako-Dakar railway.
Abdoulaye Pona, president of the Chamber of Mines, said that commercial mining was “just waiting for the start of the construction of the rails to start the construction of the ramps connecting the production sites to the main track. Moreover, we are considering supplying the local market by truck. We are in talks with local cement manufacturers, which means that production could start at any time”. The economy of Mali is currently dependent on gold mining.